"Armageddon" Blu-ray Review
April 22, 2010 by Zach Demeter
Of all of the Michael Bay films from the 90s, it was Armageddon that was perhaps the most well-known and most-copied. The two and a half hour epic about the possible end of the world further vaulted Ben Affleck’s movie career and cemented Bruce Willis, once again, as a tough bad-ass who could go up against anything. While detested by critics, the film grossed over half a billion dollars worldwide during its theatrical run and was one of the most talked about films of 1998. Over the years the film has seen various DVD incarnations, including an extras-laden Criterion Collection release, but this marks its first foray onto the Blu-ray format.
From the blockbuster-making team who produced and directed Pearl Harbor and The Rock (Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay) comes Armageddon, available for the first time on Blu-ray™ High- Definition! Starring the explosive talents of Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Owen Wilson, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Will Patton, Armageddon is a meteor storm of action adventure moviemaking that has you on the edge of your seat forgetting to breathe! When NASA’s executive director, Dan Truman (Thornton), realizes the Earth has 18 days before it’s obliterated by a meteor the size of Texas, he has only one option – land a ragtag team of roughneck oil drillers on the asteroid and drop a nuclear warhead into its core. Spectacular special effects, laugh-out-loud humor, great characters, riveting storytelling, and heartfelt emotion make Armageddon an exhilarating thrill ride you’ll want to experience like there’s no tomorrow!
I have a genuine love/hate relationship with Michael Bay. For every film of his that I enjoy I seem to dislike two others. I still have yet to watch either of the Bad Boys films so I cannot comment on those, but his other works I’ve seen and mostly enjoyed for the deafening mess that they often are. The most recent Transformers I was ambivalent on, but I did enjoy the first film in the series. The Rock was a lot of fun to watch, but Pearl Harbor and The Island both greatly annoyed me. So where does that leave Armageddon? Well, Armageddon may be the only Michael Bay film that I genuinely hate.
I hadn’t seen the film until a few years back when I’d finally borrowed the Criterion disc from my brother. “Oh boy,” I thought, “I’ll finally get to see this movie!” I popped it in and within half an hour I was bored out of my mind. I flipped the timer on to see how much longer the film had to go and…two hours? You gotta be kidding me. How is this mess going to stretch on for another two hours? But it did…by God, did it ever keep going. Every mundane detail was dwelled upon and were it not for Bruce Willis’s genuinely entertaining persona, I would’ve given up on it after an hour. I stuck with it and was really not rewarded with anything of value; it was loud, stupid, made absolutely moronic scientific leaps and…I just really haven’t hated a movie with Steve Buscemi in it as much as I hated this one.
I really don’t know how so many people flocked to the theater for this one; I mean, yeah, it’s big and dumb but it’s also just so long. There is little, if anything, that is redeemable about this film and I quickly found myself wondering when it would end. The relationships between the characters is often forced and unbelievable; not only that but most are unlikeable (aside from the “Blue Collar” guys that make up Willis’s crew…and Billy Bob Thornton was entertaining, I suppose) and even if you can get past the overall stupid idea that this kind of asteroid destruction is even possible, you still have a very long climax at the end where we wait for the damn thing to blow up.
The special and sound effects are of course entertaining in an overly loud way, but there’s just no substance to this film. It’s akin to an amusement park ride that has intermittent stops along the way to help develop the “story” of the tracks that you’re riding upon. Only you don’t care about the story, you just want to have your stomach turn upside down and fall into your throat. It’s got too much substance for a film that should really float along on nothing. In that regard I can simply tell you to Rent It if you, for some reason, have yet to see this film. Then again if you don’t like Michael Bay productions then you can just continue to ignore it.
Buena Vista tosses out Armageddon in a very bare package. It has the movie, of course, in 1080p with DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, but the extras? Pfft. Forget it. Some trailers and the Aerosmith music video for that song that will get stuck in your head (it’s been looping in my head the entire time I’ve been writing this review) and refuse to leave. There’s nothing else on here, which means all of those wonderful extras from the Criterion release are staying in that same spot—making this Blu-ray release rather useless if you were looking to swap it out.
Video is an AVC encoded 2.35:1 encode and considering the film is now over a decade old there’s a lot of eye candy to take in. Some of the effects look dated at times, but as with most Bay productions comes the ballooned budget because he often utilizes real locations or implements enormous fireballs—so while there’s plenty wizardry going on, there are a lot of legitimate effects to look upon as well. It’s a pretty solid effort from start to finish, but it’s not the video transfer that will really floor you.
No, what will floor you is the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track. Although entirely expected from this movie, the resulting thuds and bangs from this soundtrack are deafening at times. It doesn’t matter whether its individual meteors laying waste to entire cities or the sound of a spaceship crash landing on an asteroid, there are not only a myriad of environmental sound effects but also plenty of LFE utilization as well. It’s a robust and potent mix, but sadly the A/V boost is all this Blu-ray has to offer.
As mentioned previously there’s nothing here on the extras side that’s worth mentioning—just all the old fluff in standard definition. Not worth upgrading to unless you absolutely love this film for some reason. Skip It.
Armageddon arrives on Blu-ray on April 27th.